22nd July 2016
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
Standard methods of laundering clothing are rife with environmental problems, such as excessive water and electricity usage, as well as significant pollution. So when researchers develop innovative new fabrics that resist stains and soil — or do away with the need to launder altogether — it really does seem as if technology can rescue us from many of the ecological problems we face today. And yet, there’s usually a hidden drawback for every technological leap. In the case of futuristic and self-cleaning fabrics, a range of health and environmental consequences come into play.
The problem with modern laundry practices
Even with notable advancements in clothes washers and dryers, there’s still much to be desired in terms of wastefulness. A new, high-efficiency washer uses about 12 gallons of water per load and 25% less electricity than standard models. Older top-loading machines can require up to 45 gallons of water, whereas newer models use around 27 gallons. About 90% of total energy usage for any kind of washer is due to heating the water. However, the biggest energy drain comes not from a washing machine, but the dryer.